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February 19, 2019

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Nevada lawmakers consider asking voters to toss tampon tax

Market

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

In this June 22, 2016 file photo, Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton’s Market, in Sacramento, Calif. Nevada has voted to waive taxes on tampons and other feminine hygiene products.

CARSON CITY — Wading into a worldwide debate on the fairness of taxing feminine hygiene products, Nevada lawmakers considered Thursday whether to ask voters to abolish state and local sales taxes on tampons, pads and other items women use during menstruation.

Other products the government deems necessities — including most groceries and prescription drugs — are exempt from sales taxes.

Supporters argue it's wrong to tax tampons but not candies.

Senate Bill 415 and a similar measure in the Assembly aim to rectify what proponents call a symbol of greater inequality.

"It acknowledges the routine unfairness that seeps into women's everyday lives by removing taxes on essential products," Molly Rose Lewis of NARAL Pro Choice America said. "Feminine hygiene is not a choice or a luxury but a matter of biology."

A few cents regularly paid in taxes on feminine hygiene products add up to hundreds of dollars over the decades for the women who buy them, proponents say.

Legislative analysts have not yet published an estimate of how much money the state collects from taxing tampons.

Marlene Lockard recalled during the legislative hearing the coin-operated restrooms that were erected in Nevada airports and public-transportation depots across the country from the 1950s to '70s. Because the payment systems were attached to stall doors, not urinals, women were disproportionately affected by the fees, which intended to offset maintenance costs for both men and women's restrooms.

Women stockpiled coins to ensure they could use the bathroom when they needed to, Lockard said, until public outcry forced companies to do away with pay-to-pee systems in the '80s.

"The struggle has been long," she said, later adding "Here we are talking about taxes on tampons — who would have thought, from the day we were fighting to get the doors open on the toilets."

A handful of nations and U.S. states have exempted feminine hygiene products from sales taxes since 2015.

Democratic Sens. Yvanna Cancela of Las Vegas and Joyce Woodhouse of the eastern Las Vegas suburb of Henderson are proposing one of the first attempts in Nevada.

No one spoke in opposition to the bill and the Senate Revenue and Economic Development Committee took no immediate action on it.

A similar proposal, Assembly Bill 402, would exempt diapers from state and local taxes in addition to feminine hygiene products. It will be heard next Thursday.

If approved by voters, the exemptions in both bills would expire at the end of 2028.